Sunday, November 14, 2010

Progressive No More

I've decided that it's time (for me at least) to shed the label of "Progressive". First of all I never really understood what that meant. I always thought that people came up with it when Liberal became a dirty word in politics. I am unabashedly a liberal. I believe that the government should do more for those of us who can't do for themselves. I believe that health care should be a right and not a privilege. I believe that gays should be allowed to marry and be as miserable as the rest of us. I believe that all our children deserve the same quality of education. I believe that affirmative action will be necessary until we no longer exist as a species on this planet. I also believe that having a President in the White House who belongs to the Democratic party is a good thing. 

The so called progressives in this country are climbing over each other to see which one can express more disappointment in what Barack Obama has been able to achieve as President. You see when Obama was elected, he was singlehandedly supposed to take down the Washington DC machine. He alone was going to expose the corporate underbelly. He was going to make the sun shine every day and bring an end to all war and hunger. He was also going to get universal health coverage for all, end hunger, make our schools the best in the world, turn our economy green overnight by ending our dependence of foreign oil, end all discrimination, bring down the corrupt banking system and make sure the Yankees won the World Series every year. Okay, that last one was just what I was hoping. 

The progressives who had worked so hard to get Obama elected, now feel betrayed because all those things haven't come to pass. They point to FDR and LBJ as examples of what can be done by a true "progressive" leader. They seem to forget that FDR came to power with over 70% of both houses of Congress from his party. We were also at the start of Great Depression (which magically did not end over night, regardless of the re writing of history that some would like to do) and people were desperate for an answer, any answer. What those who are so enamored of FDR fail to note is that after his first 100 days in office and even with overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate, he was never again able to pass anything like the sweeping changes he made initially. He also wanted universal health care, but couldn't get enough support for it, even from his own party. Perhaps the progressives of the day were also lamenting the ineffectiveness of FDR. LBJ swept into his second term on a wave of emotion over the slaying of his predecessor. The country rejected the seemingly knee jerk conservatism of Barry Goldwater (all except the deep south states which have remained a Republican stronghold ever since) and gave him a mandate to govern. The Great Society was supposed to bring an end to all discrimination, hunger and suffering. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights act, the Medicare act were all part of plan. Of course less than 2 years later the same country that had so overwhelmingly voted for LBJ were ready to tear his head off. And his main opposition came from within his own party.

I don't think it's a bad thing to dream big. In fact big dreams create big results. In Washington DC however, those dreams must be tempered by political reality. All those people who donated money to the Obama campaign have to understand that even though it was a record haul for a candidate, he still got more money from corporate entities than he did from private citizens. That is just the reality of politics. The banks and big business pay for our elected officials. Campaign finance reform would be wonderful, but in reality, the forces aligned against it are just too powerful. This President (and the parties they lead), likes those before him in modern times, are beholden to big corporate interests. The five biggest banks in the country have more capital than the US government. Who do you think wins a stare down between the two? 

This President is never going to be all things to all people. I reject the notion, however, that there is no difference between him and a generic Republican President. I believe that this President's heart is in the right place. I believe that he really cares about the issues of working people. I believe that he is doing all that he can to make sure that the people get as fair a shake as possible under the current conditions. That is what I believe is the difference. Can he affect all the changes that he'd like? Of course not. He is bound by the limitations of his office. I personally think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are pointless. If it were up to me, I would bring everyone home tomorrow. But it's not up to me and frankly, it's not up to him either. If anyone thinks that managing global military policy is as easy as just ending something that is unpopular, then they are deluding themselves. But apparently that is what "progressives" like to do. I would love America to reject our dependence on foreign oil and create millions of "green" jobs here. But Americans are lazy and cheap. As long as oil is the cheapest way to power our cars, then that is what we are going to use. A "green" economy can't be created overnight. There has to be a demand for it and unfortunately, despite the fact that we are slowly killing our planet, there is none. 

Progressives also like to talk of this mythical leader who can turn this all around. Dennis Kucinich has been mentioned by some. Of course he has about as much chance of being elected President as I do and I wasn't even born here. The machine that is Washington DC moves slowly and incrementally. Was health care reform all I had hoped for? Of course not. I mean who would have wanted a money grab for the same insurance companies that have been screwing us for years? Financial reform is fairly toothless, but it is an attempt at trying to control an out of control situation. How would this imagined "progressive" leader have handled a fractured Democratic party and an opposition bent on destroying any agenda he or she set. The Republicans made a calculated gamble that the economy could not be turned around in 18 months and that the people would blame the President for it. So by opposing his policies, even without proposing any of their own, they look like a better option. And amazingly the American people bought it. That's not exactly true, but they did buy the disenchantment with the current administration. They listened to all the naysayers and doomsday prophets and stayed home in droves. Could the mythical progressive prophet have done any better? The people have already shown how quickly they lose faith in their real political "Superman".

I started this by saying I'm not a Progressive anymore. I don't know that I ever was one. I'm just simply a liberal with a firm grip on reality. Perhaps I'm too pragmatic to be a Progressive. Who knows? Those on the left who say that the President should have mobilized his forces to fight for health care or financial reform or gay marriage or whatever, forget the fact that when Barack Obama took the oath of office, he was no longer a candidate of some of the people, he became the President of all of the people. He does not speak only to those of us who supported him or gave him money or voted for him or made phone calls for him or knocked on doors for him, he speaks to all of us. Some may listen, some may not, but he does not have the option to only speak to selected groups. He makes his case to the American people and they decide what their course of action will be. As a liberal, I want more from this administration. I want more from this President. But I know the size of the rock he's trying to push up that hill. I'm a liberal, and I want more. But I also live in the real world.
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Tim said...

Obviously you can believe anything you want to. For every thing you see good in Obama many of of see bad.
He is not what he said he would be or do. All we want is a fighter. My term for him is the great Appeaser. That being said we are believe it or not on the same side. As long as a Republican is not President I'm fine with that. When and if it comes down to it, we will vote for him. For every good thing he's done I can point to a compromise or backing down completely. That's not what I worked for and gave money to.
As the song says, he's a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction. I don't think he's a bad man at all. I didn't think Jimmy Carter was a bad man either. He was just not so good at being President. I don't demonize you for your continued support of him, I wouldn't the same from you of me.
It's opinion and personal summation of what he's done or not done so far. I respect your opinion and I hope you do mine.
Regards, Tim

Mycue23 said...

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Mine is certainly not better than yours or anyones. I understand the frustration with the President, but he is in an almost impossible position. There is no way he could have satisfied the dreams and desires of all those who voted for him. There is something called political reality and I think that some on the left refuse to acknowledge that. You have seen members of the President's own party cut and run from him when things get tough, you have seen the opposition refuse to bend even when he incorporates their ideas, you have seen the President try to do the right thing only to be drowned out by the noise machine on the right, and yet he gets no credit for the effort. When people want to rip health care reform they say that he gave in on the public option, when they want to praise it, they say that it was all the work of Nancy Pelosi.
He can't win with the Right and it seems that he can't win with the left either. He's in a untenable position. And Jimmy Carter would have had a health care plan that covered all working people if Ted Kennedy hadn't decided that he wanted to run against him for President and scuttled their deal. Who knows, history may be as unkind to Obama as it has been to Carter, but I know that I would take either of them over every President we've had since Carter.

Beach Bum said...

Yeah, I really think both the left wing of American politics and many in the actual Obama political machine started to believe Barrack could leap tall buildings with a single bound. I mainly blame this on how badly Baby Bush was able to get his way while in office. The look of some progressives bordered on insane over his tenure creating some unrealistic expectations for Obama.

For me where the rubber met the road was after the giddy dreams of his election started to fade. The massive loss of American jobs because of the economic meltdown threw a huge monkey wrench into any of his campign promises.

Sorry but I frankly believe Obama screwed the pooch by not directly getting involved in a massive jobs creation program that could have tackled our disintergrating infrastructure. Yes, we had the Stimulus but it was piecemeal with all sorts of pork that congress injected.

Now I could get very long about how I feel any real recovery is impossible until jobs that pay a decent wage become available. But they continue to flow to China. But I will close by saying Obama's only hope now is to turn the repub/teabaggers against each other. But that would mean he would have to stay involved and I admit he seems to have a hard time at least looking like he is emotionally in the game, something Clinton excelled at.

Infidel753 said...

Some people have a hugely exaggerated idea of how much power the President has. Even with large majorities in Congress, there are limits to what he can do. The system is set up that way.

It's true that Obama has not fought some battles as hard as he could have, and that he's been too concerned with "bipartisanship". But why is anyone surprised? He always campaigned as a non-ideological centrist, right back to the 2008 primaries. That's why I preferred Hillary. Obama may have disappointed those who projected their own ideas onto him, but he shouldn't have disappointed anyone who was actually listening to him.

But the important point is that, as you say, it's wrong to think there are no important differences between parties. Does anyone really think it would have made no difference if Gore instead of Bush had been President in 2001-2008? Does anyone really think Obama's Supreme Court picks are no different than Bush's?

Mycue23 said...

Obama couldn't get members of his own party to go along with a bigger stimulus package. The Republicans, after getting the tax cuts they wanted included in the package, claimed that they couldn't go along with any program that added to the deficit. It's hard to say that he could have gotten more than he did. A lot of the Blue Dogs were unwilling to give as much as was included in the bill. Some economists said that the bill needed to be at least twice as large as it was, but there was no way that anything larger was going to get through the House and the Senate. To blame the President for what it wasn't is to ignore what it was.

Sue said...

Nicely said Mycue, you always help us to see things more clearly.
Progressives are for progress, hence the phrase, but a liberal is a liberal. For alot of Obamas followers their disappointment comes from social issues that liberals fight for, like gay rights. I do get frustrated with the bipartisan attempts even when the president gets kicked in the face time after time. I do want him to be stronger in his words, but I also understand why he can not. What makes me most grateful for President Obama is the thought of Sarah Palin as president! Now that is a scary thought!

Jack Jodell said...

Great piece as usual, Mycue23! Your post inspired me to write one of my own which may or may not lead you to reclassify yourself. Either way is ok with me.

BTW, LOVED your and Sandy's film! You are a truly gifted writer, and Sandy is a great director. The music was very tasty, too---you have an abundance of talents! I will email you with further comments after I've had the chance to view it a couple of more times.

Mycue23 said...

Thanks for taking the time to watch the movie. It was not an easy process to get it done, but it was worth it.